2020 Catcher Safest Bet – Sports Illustrated
No matter how much you study and prepare for your fantasy baseball draft, something unexpected will inevitably happen. Maybe an under-the-radar sleeper you thought only you knew about gets drafted in the middle rounds. Maybe there’s a huge positional run. Maybe some of your favorite players continued to fall, so you loaded up at positions you didn’t expect to fill in the early rounds.
Whatever the case may be, things will happen on draft day that you didn’t anticipate and can’t adequately prepare. Therefore, it’s crucial to know the point of no return at the infield positions.
While you’ll field multiple players at the outfield and pitcher spots—positions that have depth—having a significant disadvantage at an infield position can be a glaring weakness in both head-to-head and rotisserie leagues. How do you combat that? How do you find that aforementioned point of no return? By finding your “safety school” player. Your safest bet and we’re covering each position.
You remember the term “safety school,” right? It’s the one college/trade school you knew you, or a friend/family member could get into if you wanted, even if it wasn’t the ideal one. The same concept applies here. Who is the last player in your positional rankings that you’d be willing to begin the season with as a starter? That’s your “safety school” player.
Here’s who that player is for me at the catcher position in a standard 12-team, 5×5 mixed league.
Tom Murphy, Seattle Mariners
2020 Projection: 46R – 19HR – 54RBI – 3SB – .224 (438 ABs)
Murphy is ranked as my No. 19 catcher, but is the 17th catcher off the board in ADP (No. 282 overall). Every catcher ranked behind him has multiple significant warts. For example, they have some combination of serious batting average issues, playing time concerns, or a considerable lack of counting stats. While batting average is a concern with Murphy, the other areas aren’t.
Although he hit .273 in 76 games with Seattle last season, every major projection model is expecting severe regression. Although a .224 batting average isn’t ideal, given what’s left on the board, it isn’t the end of the world. I have only three catchers ranked behind him that I expect to hit .250 or better.
Murphy’s best assets are his power and playing time.
I have the soon-to-be 29-year-old penciled in for the fifth-most at-bats among all catchers (438) this season. Aside from Tampa Bay’s Mike Zunino, all other catchers behind him in my rankings could struggle to get even 350 at-bats.
As far as power goes, his 19 projected home runs rank tied for seventh among all catchers. His 54 RBI have him tied for ninth among all catchers, while his 46 runs place him 12th. Even his three projected steals are bested by only four other catchers.
Essentially, you’re drafting a catcher that’ll give you Top 12 (or better) production everywhere except batting average. That’s precisely the type of player you want as your “safety school.” Odds are, if you’re waiting this long on a catcher, you either have some solid-to-great batting average assets already on your team or are punting the category entirely. In any of those scenarios, Murphy is a great fit.